story by Claire Miller
In 2015, Georgia State University basketball player R.J. Hunter made a three-point shot in the last few seconds of the team’s game against Baylor University, giving Georgia State a one-point lead and the chance to move to the second round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The team’s 57-56 win not only surprised basketball fans who’d expected Georgia State to lose their first-round game, but also brought national attention to the university.
“Significant athletic moments, such as the men’s basketball team making a surprise run in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the football team’s 2019 win against the University of Tennessee, helped create national media exposure and generated awareness about the Georgia State University brand,” said College of Education & Human Development Professor Beth Cianfrone, who studies sport marketing and branding.
Cianfrone and Dean’s Doctoral Fellow Natalie Bunch co-authored a chapter on Georgia State’s recent athletics successes and the university’s brand awareness in Cianfrone’s new book, “Branding in Higher Education: Every University Tells a Story.”
The book, which she co-edited with University of North Florida faculty members Jason Lee and Elizabeth Gregg, highlights how universities and their athletic departments can collectively create nationally-recognized brands.
More specifically, the book’s chapters focus on 15 universities and how different aspects of their athletics departments – from the sport teams and coaches to the venues, mascots and rivalries with other schools – contribute to their respective institutions. For example, New Mexico University’s basketball venue, colloquially known as “The Pit,” has seen almost five decades of high attendance, and one chapter in “Branding in Higher Education” explores how this success has made an impact on the university’s overall brand.
Cianfrone and her colleagues hope that faculty teaching undergraduate or graduate courses in marketing, branding and higher education administration can use this book to show students how college athletics impacts a university’s public perception.
“College athletics are often known as the front porch of a university. Someone’s first visit to campus may be to watch a game, and these experiences may help individuals become familiar with the school and even draw people to apply and attend the university,” she said. “We wanted to fill a gap by creating a book that highlighted examples of how universities and their athletic departments co-exist to create strong institutional brands.”
To learn more about Cianfrone’s book, visit https://cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781611637663/Branding-in-Higher-Education.